Whiteley: Ackermann hopes for 'early' return
REACTION: Lions coach Johan Ackermann has not given up hope of seeing regular captain Warren Whiteley featuring in the Super Rugby play-offs.
A medical report from the Lions earlier this week suggested Whiteley has been ruled out for the rest of the Super Rugby season.
The Springbok captain missed the final Test against France this a past weekend after he sustained an injury during a training session.
According to Lions team doctor Rob Collins, scans showed that the 29-year-old has a torn ligament in his pelvis.
While he does not require surgery, the report suggested Whiteley will be out of action for six to eight weeks.
This means, the skipper will certainly miss the Lions last two Super Rugby two matches - against Sunwolves and Sharks.
With the Super Rugby play-offs get underway on June 21 and the competition being concluded on August 5, it would appear Whiteley's season is over.
However, Ackermann is holding out hope for a speedy recovery.
"Hopefully we can stay in the competition for a long time," the coach said, adding: "Every week that passes makes it possible for Warren to come back and be involved."
Ackermann admitted Whiteley's absence it is a "big" setback.
"He is an outstanding leader, but we will also miss his performances as a player," the coach said.
"He is an exceptional No.8. His workrate is phenomenal in a game and he will leave a gap."
He said they have confidence that the rest of the players will step up and play towards their strengths.
"At the same time the other senior players must step up in that leadership role."
The good news is that the Lions' Springbok scrumhalf, Ross Cronjé, has been cleared to face the Sunwolves this coming Saturday.
Cronje missed the third and final Test against France on Saturday because of delayed concussion symptoms - following the second Test in Durban.
Ackermann also has some difficult selection decisions to make.
Fourteen of the Lions' players were involved in the June matches between South African and French teams.
Ackermann said he will decide "later in the week" what roles the players will play against the SAunwolves.
Apart from Whiteley, the Lions who played for the Springboks in the Test against France include Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Franco Mostert, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx and Jaco Kriel.
On top of that Ruan Combrinck, Harold Vorster, Ruan Ackermann and Andries Ferreira played for South Africa A against the French Barbarians.
Ackermann is set to name his team on Thursday will most likely only reveal then the number of Boks that will front up to the Japanese franchise.